Guilderton to York

I should point out, firstly, I didn’t actually travel from Guilderton to York.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts Australia’s borders are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so we’re taking the time to rediscover Western Australia. We took a long weekend and made short trips to Guilderton, North and York, East.

Guilderton

Guilderton is one hour (100km) North of Perth and is situated at the mouth of the Moore River.

It’s a sleepy tourist town with a caravan park and quite a few holiday homes. It doesn’t really cater for couples with its larger scale accommodation offerings, hence our day trip only. I guess we could camped if we really wanted to stay. It would be nice to come back with another family ans spend more time exploring the river and surrounding spots such as Lancelin.

Jane and I shared fish and chips from the General Store. At $11 it was delicious and ample enough for two. We sat on a bench overlooking the river. A couple of ducks waddled up and demanded their share.

The real attraction of the place is the river and beach. A boardwalk around the escarpment offers spectacular views over the river mouth. Of course the lookout wasn’t high enough for me so I got the drone out.

Further inland another boardwalk traverses the river.

York

On Monday we left early for our day trip to York. York is situated in the “wheatbelt” of Western Australia about 150km east of Perth. Its quite close to Toodyay, where we visited in July. The main reason we wanted to go is that the canola fields are blooming.

There has been some grumblings of the local farmers say that tourists are coming a trampling all their crops. There are some that allow visitors in for a fee. Jane and I preferred to find out own locations. So we found our own location and we ventured inside (umm… yeah trespassed) the fields and immersed ourselves in the yellow fields. We were careful not to harm any plants. Of course the drone came out to fly above the sea of gold.

Video here

Canola is also known as Rape Seed. Edible oil is made from the seed of the plant and is popular around the world for its Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids content and it also helps to cut cholesterol levels.

The best place to see the canola fields in the road between York and Northam, called the Northam-York Road of course. We took some gravel side roads to find a field that was remote and unfenced.

Greece Part 1

The azure water of the Mediterranean sea laps gently against the hull of our yacht. We sip our gin & tonics while our topless partners sun themselves on the deck. Its a beautiful warm day moored just of the coast on the island of Mykonos…

…is what I should be saying right now.

But sadly our Greece trip was ruined, like just about everything this year by Covid-19.

Instead we spent a few days in the South West of Western Australia at Eight Willows Retreat. We’re only allowed to travel within Western Australia until further notice. I guess we shouldn’t complain, at least we’re allowed to travel somewhere, unlike many other parts of the world. We have stayed at Eight Willows before and decided to come back for a 3 day family get away. Bettina didn’t want to give up any work, so it was just Bianca joining Jane and myself.

We booked a 2 bedroom villa right at the back of the property.

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Aerial View of Eight Willows Retreat
In the bush

As you can see I’m now the proud owner of a drone. I bought the Mavic Air 2 drone a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to use it over come spectacular coast line.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, unpacked and settled in. That evening we headed to Canal Rocks to catch the sunset. We had some rain as we travelled down from Perth, but the evening broke up and the sunset was nice.

Sunset over Canal Rocks, Yallingup
The “Canal”
I was “too busy” to take photos of the girls

After the sun went down we headed into Dunsborough to have dinner at Clancy’s Fish Pub. Jane and I shared the seafood platter. Even though it said “for one”, it was ample for two of us. Even Bianca had some. I tried one of the local beers – Asam Boi Gose from Beerfarm. Its an unusually delicious sweet and sour Asian style beer.

We got back the unit for night cap and a spa bath for two.

What are you looking at!

We woke up lazily on Friday morning and after some bacon and eggs we headed to Injidup Bay for more flying around. It was a beautiful sunny day. I hadn’t been to Injidup before. It is renowned for its “Natural Spa” formation, where the waves come crashing over the rocks and empty like a waterfall into a rock pool.

We drove back to Margaret River and had lunch at the Cheeky Monkey Brewery.

The Chicken Wings were fantastic. The garden setting was very nice too.

Cheeky Monkeys

We stopped in at the Churchview winery to sample some of their offering on the way back back to the retreat. They had a nice (cheap) Shiraz and an interesting Zinfandel.

After a short rest we made our back to Margaret river for dinner at La Scarpetta Trattoria. This Italian restaurant is a local favourite and we had to wait over an hour for a table. We walked up the Settler’s Tavern for a drink while we waited. The food at La Scarpetta was delicious. We could see why the were so popular. The staff were efficient and very friendly.

Back to bed after another spa bath. Driving home tomorrow stopping at the Bunbury Farmers Market on the way of course.

Yeah its not Greece…but Western Australia is a pretty fine place to be nonetheless.

Toodyay yay yay

We had big travel plans this year. Three small trips to Bali and a three week extravaganza in Greece and Italy. including one week sailing around the Greek Isles (Cyclades). Enter Mr Covid.

2020 WTAF

With lock-downs easing in (Western) Australia we decided for the rest of the year we’ll travel around our own “back yard”. Well there’s no choice really. But of course we’re blessed to live in such a beautiful place as Western Australia – so quit yer whingin‘.

Day one – get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway…

We’d just bought a new car (2019 Mazda6 for those interested) and we were itching for a long drive. We decided to spend a weekend in the Avon Valley. On the spur of the moment we thought “lets go ballooning”. The have hot-air balloon charters from Northam. But we were too late and the weekend was already booked out. We decided to push on and booked a lovely Airbnb in Toodyay. Toodyay, situated in the heart of the Avon Valley is a small country town 100km east of Perth. Its an easy one and a half hour drive from Perth though the rolling green farmland.

The Studio was a nice little guesthouse in Toodyay booked though Airbnb. It was hosted by a lovely lady, Caroline who lived in the house attached to the Studio.

We arrived around lunchtime and unpacked – we’d seemed to packed enough for our european holiday rather than a sleepy weekender! Into the town for a pub-lunch. We shared a fish and chips at the Freemasons Hotel, one of the two pubs in Toodyay. Lunch was nice – the chef served the single serve of fish and chips on two dishes for us, which was a nice touch. After lunch we went back to the studio for a nap…hey I did say is was a sleepy weekender. We got up hungry again (Jane) and went back into town for dinner at the Spice & Grill. We shared a Prawn Curry. It was nice without being spectacular.

Day Two – what’s open?

Caroline met us on Sunday morning and told us of the history of the place and suggested some attractions in the surrounding towns. We decided to take Caroline’s advice to drive to New Norcia via Bolgart. Caroline suggested a nice cafe in Bolgart called “Trees“. We hadn’t had breakfast, so we were getting pretty peckish. Sadly Trees was closed when we got there. In fact there wasn’t a soul to been seen in the whole town. We pushed on to New Norcia. The drive was a pleasure through the rolling farmland. We were keeping an eye out for a nice spot to take some photos. Turning off the Bindi Bindi-Toodyay road we crossed the Railway. Jane likes railway track photos so we stopped for a photo shoot.

Shiny
Gucci feels

Jane was inspired by Gucci’s latest fashion looks and wanted to try to recreate the look.

When we got to the Great Northern Highway we we aghast to discover the road to New Norcia was closed. The GPS Navigator recalculated the journey to over an hour that took us through Bindoon. At this stage Jane was getting hangry and we decided to stop in Bindoon Bakehaus for a pie.

We travelled back to Toodyay through the Julimar State Forest, another one of Caroline’s suggestions. The new Mazda handled the winding narrow road beautifully. We detoured off the main road down a small track for another photoshoot.

We reached Toodyay and decided to press on through to Northam. Northam is a larger town about 25 km south east. I wanted to see the Silo Art. The Silo Art Trail is a series of painted grain silos throughout the whole of Australia. The silos in Northam were painted by London artist Phlegm and Atlanta native HENSE in April 2015.

In the town itself we stopped for a snack and drink. We found a Dome Cafe with a nice little surprise. It has a modern wine bar attached. We had a couple of cocktails and a side of chips. I had a gin and tonic with green chilli which was delicious. Jane had a couple of drinks including a margarita and passionfruit mimosa.

Cocktails at Dome, who would have thought?

It was getting towards dinner time, so we continued our journey to Grass Valley. A good friend of ours recommended the Grass Valley Tavern so we aimed the Mazda there. Of course the “theme of the day” was honoured and it was closed. Oh well back to Toodyay for dinner at the other pub the Victoria.

We shared a Chicken Burger and wings. It was pretty average. Wearily we made out way back to the studio for an early bedtime.

Day three – home

Monday morning we stayed long enough for Jane’s work (online) meeting. I packed our European trip’s luggage into the Mazda for the 100km trip home.

Although there were some disappointments with the trip, we both appreciated the weekend away. The Avon Valley is a beautiful region and we’ll definitely be back, perhaps we’ll get to the ballooning after all.

Eight Willows Retreat

We were lucky enough to be invited to spend a couple of days at Eight Willows Retreat by its owners and good friends Mike and Dorilyn.

Eight Willows is situated in Wilyabrup in Western Australia. Its about half way between Busselton and Margaret River. I’m lucky to live only three hours drive from this beautiful part of the world.

Jane and I arrived on Sunday afternoon and had the first day to ourselves. Being mates with the owners has its perks and we were treated to the “Residence“, which is the biggest house on the property. It is beautifully appointed with 4 large bedrooms, two bathrooms a massive kitchen, dining and living area.

Sunday afternoon we arrived , unpacked and explored the grounds.

Jordan at reception recommended an Italian place for dinner at Margaret River, so we made our way 24 kms south to La Scarpetta Trattoria. We couldn’t find parking close, so we parked further up the Bussell Highway. As we entered the restaurant, we realised it was actually Pizzica Pizzeria underneath the main La Scarpetta restaurant. We thought why not? we were already here. We ordered a pizza which turned out to be not that great.

We got ice creams on the way back. We opened a bottle of wine and watched TV before we were both dozing off. Country life caught up with us and we retired to bed.

The next morning we slept in (why not? again). We got up about 10 o’clock and decided to visit one of out favourite wineries, Woody Nook for a late breakfast. This was the third time Jane and I had been there. We always bought their Port, Nookie Delight. The breakfast was terrific and before we left we decided to reacquaint ourselves with their wines. We loved the Verdelho and as it was on special for $150/carton, we couldn’t resist – Christmas presents sorted! We also grabbed a few bottles of Nookie Delight.

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Christmas at Woody Nook

We arrived back at Eight Willows just after midday to find Mike and Dorilyn and their kids, Shaun and Stephanie (Fifi) had arrived in their caravan. It seemed strange to learn that the first night of their caravan holiday was spent in a 4 1/2 star resort. They were travelling onto Denmark, Esperance and Kalgoorlie before heading back to Perth for Christmas. Having grown up in Singapore, it will be a great experience for Shaun and Fifi to see some Aussie countryside.

After Mike and Dorilyn settled in we went for a walk up the back of the property to the winery next door, Knotting Hill. We sampled a few (well actually all) of their wines and bought two cartons between us. Jane loved the Muscat, so we bought a bottle for our port barrel. We noticed there was a tour group of Germans(?) and Americans there. We left at the same time, us on foot and them in a bus. Next stop was the Grove Distillery. It was just across the road.

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Sampling the wares of Notting Hill

When we arrived the tour bus was right behind us – we almost beat them on foot (and half sloshed). The Grove is not so typical on the area, as it specialises in spirits, such as Gin, Whisky and Rum. As we we were a little pooped from our walk we ordered Gin and Tonics all round. It was very refreshing. Mike and I followed up with some straight Rums. Mike had the Dark Rum, while I had the Spiced Rum.

We walked back through the bush to the resort.

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Bushies

We arrived at the function room and had a few drinks by the lake, while Mike talked to the staff. Shaun had his drone whizzing around. I was quite interested because I’m going to get one when we go sailing the Greek Islands next August. I looked so cool, I’m already drooling.

Back at the Residence, we had a barbecue for dinner (with a few wines of course). Mike cooked up a mountain of steaks and lamb chops. We filled our bellies and swapped BS stories about the afterlife. We went to bed relatively early as we both had long drives in the morning.

Up early for bacon and farm fresh eggs – and packing. We were both ready to leave at 8 am. Jane and I back to Perth. Mike, Dorilyn and the kids to Denmark (WA not Europe).

We can’t thank Mike and Dorilyn enough for the opportunity to stay at Eight Willows. Their generosity is so expansive. We’re indeed very lucky to call them our friends.

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Our hosts Mike and Dorilyn

Bali – Bogans to Celebrities in six days

Yep Bali again.

This time it was a trip of contrasts. The first three days we did it Bogan style in Legian. The last three days we traded the Bintang singlets for collared shirts in Nusa Dua.

Part 1 – Legian

We arrived late on Friday night, picked up as usual by Made and deposited at the Sun Island Hotel. We had stayed at the Sun Island before. It’s in a great location, cheap, clean and well appointed. This time Bettina and Bianca joined Jane and I. We had two rooms on the same level – upgraded to Deluxe! At $47 per room per night – its great value.

We did the normal Aussie Bogan things.

  • Chilled at the pool (sneakily using our own Rum to mix with the coke we bought at the pool bar)
  • Shop for cheap clothes (Bintang singlets for me)
  • Massages and foot scrubs
  • Looked at (every single) handbags on Legian Rd.
  • Eat and drink (repeat)
  • Staying up to 1 am singing Karaoke with new “Indo-friends” (Bettina and Bianca only)

 

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Row 1 – First Class AirAsia style

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Bogan’s diet

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Sun Island Hotel has a pretty good pool

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Sunset at the pool

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Foot treatments

 

Part 2 – Nusa Dua

After three days, we were sick of the bogan life and upgraded ourselves to celebrity status, checking in the the Hilton Bali Resort.

We were meeting our friends Clive and Susan. Clive, now retired, worked many years in the hotel business and had stayed at the Hilton before. His son got married there. He recommended it, so we joined them.

Made picked us up from the Sun Island drove us to The Hilton at Nusa Dua. Entering the hotel lobby we were all awestruck by the stunning view over the ocean. As we were checking in again we were mesmerised by the view behind the receptionists.

Our rooms were on the same floor as the reception. Level 6 on our wing – Level 15 on the cliff tower wing – it was confusing at first, but we soon understood it. Either way we were high up and had spectacular views. The room was huge and beautiful. The bed was the biggest I’d ever seen.

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Room 2609

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View from our balcony

We had a big balcony with sweeping views over the jungle and ocean. We could see lots of monkeys in the jungle. The hotel advised us to keep our balcony doors closed, because the monkeys were known to “pay a visit”.

We had lunch at the The Shore restaurant. Again this was stunning, right on the beach. It was a hot day, but the breeze coming off the ocean made it perfect.

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Bianca trying to get a job in Hilton Marketing Dept

We then chilled by the pool for the rest of the day then got changed for dinner at the hotel’s Indonesian restaurant Paon Bali. The food was nice, but quite expensive for Balinese food. The setting was beautiful on the lawn, with the sound of the ocean in the background.

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Paon Bali Restaurant

We headed back to the room and waited for Clive to arrive.

He arrived about 10.30 pm without Susan as she was committed to her work and couldn’t make the flight. She would join us the next day. He came to our room with a bottle of Wild Turkey. We also had a couple of cigars and talked BS for a couple of hours before hitting the sack. It was a great way to round out the day.

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Old Boys

Next morning we experienced the Hilton Breakfast. Wow – what a spread!

They had everything – except, to Bettina’s dismay, guava juice, aka “Fancy Pink Juice”. She soon got over it when she seen everything else.

Susan was arriving at 12.30. Jane asked Made to pick her from the airport and also do some shopping on the way. Some drinks and snacks for the kids and a couple more cigars for the bigger kids.

When Susan arrived she joined us at the pool for drinks and the obligatory photo session.

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Under the waterfall

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Happy Hour

We had dinner at the “Grain” restaurant which offered a seafood buffet. At around $50 each plus drinks this was an extravagance in Bali. It was a little disappointing with some of the fish and prawns dry and tough. The sashimi was quite good though. The highlight of the night however was the live band. Just a simple trio, singing the classics. Clive requested an old Tom Jones song. They didn’t know it, but sang Delilah instead. It went down a treat with the whole restaurant singing along…

My my my Delilah
Why why why Delilah…

Bettina and Bianca got involved singing along with the band to “Dancing Queen”.

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Bianca singing along with “Survivor Sandra”

Back at Clive and Susan’s room for a night cap before an early bed. It’s been an exhausting day sitting around doing nothing.

The next day Made took us all back to Legian for the girls to get facials and look at (even more) bags. On the way back we stopped at Mulia resort for lunch. Mulia is even more fancier than the Hilton. Right from the entrance you can feel the opulence. We made our way down towards the beach and found the Soleil Cafe. We all had the “M Burger” and a Bintang. All agreed it was a first class burger.

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Soleil cafe at the Mulia resort

Back at the Hotel in time for Susan to pack. Her whirlwind visit was over.

After she left, Clive met us at the pool for happy hour.  We had a few beers and cocktails and transferred to the Shore restaurant to share a pizza.

We finished the Wild Turkey with more cigars back at our room to top off a wonderful couple of days.

On our final day we had  a late breakfast and went the beach and pool for some more photos. The hotel allowed us a late check-out at 1pm.

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Splish Splosh

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View from the lookout

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15th floor Cliff Tower

Made took us to the airport and we said Goodbye to Bali once again.

We’ll be back May and June 2020.

 

 

 

Lords here we come. Part 5 – Home and wrap up

Saturday morning we said goodbye to England and made our way to London Heathrow for the long trip home to Perth.

Gordon hugged his brother, perhaps for the last time and said his emotional goodbye. It was great to meet Rendel and I very much appreciate the hospitality he and Mandy showed us on this trip. Many thanks to Rendel’s “in-laws” too, especially Nick who drove us from the Airport to Stalbridge and having us for drinks to meet his wife and brother Hugo. Also thank you to Hugh and Colleen who graciously opened their home to us for our Lords adventure in London. We met so many generous and kind “poms” – it (almost) seems a shame that we have to beat them in the Ashes.

We boarded our seven hour flight to Doha trying the “seats in the middle” trick again. Again no luck as the plane was full. We had a five hour stopover in Doha where we used the time to pick up pasalubongs for our loved ones and I wrote some more of my blog.

The Qatar airways A380 to Perth was perhaps the longest and more tiring trip we had and we prayed to the airline gods that we could have the extra space. At last the gods smiled upon us and we had no one sitting beside us for the 11 hour trip. 1 out 4!

11 hours later…

We cruised into Perth about 6.30 pm missing the Fremantle Docker’s last home game for the season. We got a good view of the stadium as we approached the runway.

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Dockers getting beaten by Essendon

 

What a week! Its amazing what we packed into those few days. The Highlight was of course the cricket at Lords. My number one bucket list item fulfilled. Second was seeing the sights of Dorset. This was an unexpected day out for me and I loved the English countryside. The train from Dorset to London, riding the tubes, walking over the Thames and catching up with my old mate Chris were all special moments.

I loved every minute of the trip and can’t wait to get back and explore more of England and the rest of the UK.

Special thanks should go to my great buddy Gordon for travelling with me. Quite a different experience travelling with a friend rather than a partner. We had plenty of laughs and shared some truly memorable moments together. Thanks mate!

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Many many G&Ts shared. Cheers!

Oh yeah Jane got her designer bag from Stalbridge…

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The only Dike and Sons bag in Australia

 

Lords here we come. Test day 2 in detail.

If you’re not a cricket nut, please close this page and get on with whatever trivial task you may have in your meaningless life. There’s nothing here for you today.

Have they gone?

Good. Now me serve you this delicious day of test match cricket.


We have already got to Lords and we’ve taken our seats early to witness the Ruth Strauss Foundation day ceremonies. Ruth Strauss, the wife of former England captain Andrew died of a rare form of lung cancer. This day was a fund raiser for her foundation. Patrons were asked to wear red for the day. Players entered the field and presented their caps to Andrew Strauss to be auctioned later. Andrew Strauss rang the bell and everyone stood holding up their red 4/6 cards.

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Ruth Strauss ceremony

 

Joe Root tossed the coin and Tim Paine called called “tails”. Tails it was and Australia chose to bowl first. This took many “experts” by surprise, but I though it was the right decision on a test that is sure to be cut short by the weather. Australia, already 1-0 up in the series could not afford to bat and get skittled for a small score.

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Australia won the toss and sent England in

The teams took the field and at 11 am the cricket started – at last!

Pat Cummins took the first over from the members end and bowled to Rory Burns.

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First Ball Cummins to Burns

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Defended by Burns

First over was a maiden.

Josh Hazlewood took the new ball from the Nursery end. Bowling to Jason Roy he beat the bat a number of times. I saw the fourth ball thought my camera lens. It caught the edge and was gleefully accepted by Tim Paine behind the stumps – England 1-0 – dream Start for the Aussies!

Roy c Paine b Hazlewood 0. England 1/0

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Roy c Paine b Hazlewood 0

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Aussies celebrate England 1/0

This brought Joe Root to the wicket. Root is England’s best batsman and the Australians would be keen to get him early.

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Hazlewood was bowling beautifully. right on the spot moving the ball both ways off the seam. Root was looking quite solid, playing the ball very late in his customary manner. In Hazlewood’s fourth over he beat the bat again, but this time it thumped into Root’s pad plumb in front. Root considers reviewing the decision but turns and walks slowly back to the members. Got him!

Root lbw b Hazlewood 14. England 26/2

Joe Denly come to the crease.

Burns was surviving. Missing the ball on numerous occasions, even taking a few on the body. His technique is very unusual and doesn’t allow easy evasion of the short balls.

Peter Siddle replaced Cummins at the Members end but looked out of sorts. His usual accuracy not there in his opening spell. Nathan Lyon was also tried quite early without success.

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Lyon to Burns before Lunch

England go to Lunch 76/2. Session to Australia.

During lunch we caught up with Rendel, Rob and his wife for a drink at the Nursery.

After lunch Hazlewood was brought on back at the Nursery end and removed Denly caught behind.

Denly c Paine b Hazlewood 30. England 92/3

Jos Buttler replaced Denly.

Burns was still there and brought up his 50 in 199 balls. His luck ran out however and was brilliantly caught by Bancroft at short leg off Cummins for 53. What a catch by Bancroft! Diving full stretch to his left this ball seemed to bobble in hand before clutching it tight. It happened so quick the umpires referred it to the 3rd umpire for verification. The slow motion replay showed what a great catch it really was.

Burns c Bancroft b Cummins 53. England 116/4

Ben Stokes comes to the crease. another danger man for the Aussies.

Drinks in the middle session it was my shout for the beer. I made my way down the grandstand and to the Gents. While I was doing my business a big cheer went up from the crowd. Other guys in the toilet asked “what happened – boundary or wicket?”. Another guy said “sounded like a few groans in that”. Sure enough Buttler was out caught behind off Siddle.

Buttler c Paine b Siddle 12. England 136/5

Out comes Jonny Bairstow.  England were teetering on the brink here. Will he rescue England yet again?

Stokes looked ominous cracking 3 boundaries, but only lasted 22 balls succumbing to Lyon, trapped in front of the wicket.

Stokes lbw Lyon 13. England 138/6

Australia are into the tail with Chris Woakes striding to the crease.

Bairstow and Woakes safely guided England to Tea at 201/6

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Bairstow flirting with the leg slip

Shortly after Tea the fine partnership between Bairstow and Woakes was broken with Woakes gloving a ball down the leg side to be caught by the Australian captain. Woakes reviewed the decision but the replays show a clear touch on his glove. Bairstow and Woakes put on 63 runs and pulled England out of a dangerous position.

Woakes c Paine b Cummins 32. England 210/7

New kid Jofra Archer came to the crease with a huge cheer from the crowd. This was Archer’s test debut and English fans had great expectations for the 24 yo Barbados born speedster. England fans were waiting on his bowling debut rather than his batting however. Can he stick around with Bairstow to take England to a decent score?

Short answer: “no”. He took the long handle and scored a couple of boundaries before getting himself tangled up and spooning a leading edge off Cummins to Khawaja  at Gully.

Archer c Khawaja b Cummins 12. England 230/8

Stuart Broad came in. Broad has an annoying habit of hanging around and scoring a few runs when Australia least need it. We were hoping he wouldn’t do it again. He followed Archer’s template with a couple of boundaries of 15 balls before being bowled by Lyon.

Broad b Lyon 11. England 251/9

Bairstow was batting well. England are lucky to have such a reliable batsman at number 7. He brought his 50 off 82 balls with 7 boundaries. He looked in control from his very first ball. Running out of partners he looked to score runs quickly and mistimed a slog-sweep off Lyon to pick out Khawaja at deep square leg. That’s the end of the English innings. Jack Leach remained not out 0.

Bairstow c Khawaja b Lyon 52. England 258 all out

A great effort from all the Aussie bowlers sharing the wickets. Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon getting 3 each and Siddle with 1. The standout bowler was Hazlewood with a brilliant opening spell in the first session. His first two wickets set up a difficult day for the home side.

As for the batting, only Jonny Bairstow impressed with his 52. Burns scored 53 but never looked comfortable and was lucky to survive as long as he did. Chris Woakes provided great support to Bairstow with 32.

Is 258 enough? A tricky hour of play remained for the Australian openers. David Warner and Cameron Bancroft strode to the pitch to the boos of the English “fans”.

The booing of Warner, Bancroft and Steve Smith saddened me. I expected more from the Lords crowd. Warner, Bancroft and Smith served their sentences. They are very good players and don’t deserve booing.

Smith has proven the booing hasn’t affected his batting with two brilliant centuries in the first test. He’s such a talented batsman and showed tremendous mental strength to block out the crowd’s hostility. Warner on the other hand has struggled on this tour. Again an extremely talented batsman, but his mental game is yet to be proven. Broad has had his measure in recent times. The crowd were perched on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

Stuart Broad took the opening over from the Members end, while Jofra Archer made his much anticipated bowling debut into the breeze from the Nursery end. Both bowled well moving the ball off the seam beating the batsmen on numerous occasions. When Archer took the ball for the second over the English fans cheered loudly. Was he the one to bring the Ashes back to England?

The opening stand lasted 4.2 overs and 11 runs before Broad did it again with a ball sharply nipping back through Warner’s “gate” to clip the leg stump. It was the continuance of a disappointing Ashes campaign for Warner. Perhaps the demons are still in his head.

Warner b Broad 3. Australia 11/1

Archer bowled fast and did beat the bat, but he’d have to wait another day to claim his first wicket. Bancroft and Khawaja steered Australia through to Stumps without further loss.

Australia 30/1 (13.0 overs) (Bancroft 5, Khawaja 18)

Father time removed the bails to end a marvellous day of test cricket. What a thrill for me personally to witness this. It will live forever in my memory – Ashes test at Lords.

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Merv Hughes and his touring party

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The Aussie balcony

 

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The Rest of the match

I didn’t have tickets for the rest of the match and we made our way back to Perth on Friday. The weather forecast for the remaining days wasn’t good.

Day 3

Australia resumed their innings at the start of play. Bancroft, Khwaha and Travis Head all fell before rain forced an Early Lunch. Steve Smith 13 and Matthew Wade yet to score were the not out batsman. Bancroft was Archer’s first test wicket. The Lunch score of 80/4 became the stumps score as the rain persisted.

Australia  80/4 (37.1 overs) (Smith 13, Wade 0)

Day 4

Australia resumed their innings at the start of play. Wade was out for 6 early in the session. Smith was solid as ever and was provided good support from Tim Paine to take the partnership to Lunch at 155/5. Smith brought up his 50 in 107 balls.

Paine fell shortly after Lunch for 23 when the score was 162. Cummins also provided a useful partnership with Smith and took the score passed 200. With the new ball 5 or so overs away, Archer was cut loose and gave one of the most fiery spells of bowling ever seen. He struck Smith on the forearm which caused a great deal of discomfort. After a short delay Smith resumed the battle. This was followed up by even more hostile bowling with Archer hitting Smith in the neck just below his helmet. Smith immediately fell flat to the ground and the cricket world held it’s breath. Medical staff rushed to his assistance. Smith got to his feet while the doctor assessed him for concussion. The right decision was made and Smith left the ground Retired Hurt 80 no. Further concussion tests would be carried out in the dressing room.

Siddle came out as the replacement to face the heat of Archer. He fell to Woakes for 6 after taking the score to 218. Still 40 runs behind.

Steve Smith returned to the crease to great applause and some booing. Such a shame to hear the booing – especially for such a courageous act to come out and face Archer and take Australia to a first inning lead. Smith showed his intent and hit Archer for consecutive boundaries. Fantastic stuff! Smith appeared to have no effects from being struck in the head – until he offered no shot to a Woakes off-cutter and was caught plumb in front for 92. Very un-Smith like – perhaps the knock on the head did indeed have some effect.

Lyon, Hazlewood and Cummins took the score to 250 to trail by 8 runs on the first innings. Tea was taken

Australia 250 All out

The last session was going to be tricky for the English openers. Jason Roy again proving that he’s probably not a test player was out in the 5 over c&b Cummins. This brought the English captain to the crease. He lasted just one ball nicking Cummins through to the ‘keeper. Australia had their tails up having England 9/2.

Joe Denly and Rory Burns restored some order with a 55 run partnership, but both fell in the 19th and 21st overs to be 71/4. Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes took England to stumps at 96/4. This set up Day 5 for a possible result. Both sides have a sniff – but a draw still seemed the most likely result.

England 96/4 (32.2 overs) (Stokes 16, Buttler 10)

Day 5

Rain again delayed the start of play.

Marnus Labuschagne replaces Steve Smith under the new concussion law. Smith would play no more part in the game and Labuschagne would bat in his place.

Stokes (115 no) , Buttler (31) and Bairstow 30 no) batted well and took England to 258/8 before they declared setting Australia 267 to win with around 50 overs remaining in the day. Either side could still win.

England 258/5d (71 overs) (Stokes 115 no, Bairstow 30 no)

Would Australia risk going for the win? To go 2-0 would be almost an Ashes saver. Risking handing over the game to England however would undo all the great work in the 1st test.

Warner and Bancroft took the field to begin the climax to this enthralling game. Again Warner failed to impress and was caught in the gully by Burns off Archer for 5. Khawaja falls 2 overs later to Archer again – perhaps Archer is one to turn the Ashes for England!

In comes Smith’s replacement Marnus Labuschagne. How nervous would this young man be?

Bancroft lasts to the 14th over and is LBW to the spin of Jack Leach. Australia 47/3 and beginning to get anxious.  Travis Head joins Labuschagne and together bring Australia out of trouble with a 85 run stand. Labuschagne is eventually out for 59 – a gutsy innings and probably saved Australia’s bacon along with Travis Head’s 42 no. Wade and Paine fell cheaply but the match was saved and ended in a draw.

Australia 154/6 (47.3 overs) (Head 32 no, Cummins 1 no)

Match Drawn

Player of the match: Ben Stokes

Points: England 8: Australia 8

How can a game go for five days – end in a draw – and be super exciting? Don’t know – just is.

ESPN Match Scorecard

Lords here we come. Part 4 – Test day 2

Lords here we come?? Lords here we ARE!! The sun is shining – OMG its happening.

Cummins bowls to Burns. Burns defends straight… ok ok before you fall asleep its not going to be a post for cricket nerds. I will do a separate post for that.


I slept in – until 6am – far too late to join Gordon’s walk. We had breakfast at home, even though Rendel has been talking up a local cafe, Grind that sells “Afghan” biscuits. These are a chocolate, Cornflake biscuit, New Zealand in origin. Rendel has been talking about these for days, so we took a walk by the river for a coffee and an Afghan. To Rendel’s great relief they had some in stock. Gordon and I were well primed to pay out on him if the cupboard was bare. They were not too bad. This part of the Thames is where Oxford and Cambridge universities have their famous “Boat Race” rowing battles.

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Rendel the Afghan Hunter

Back at the house time to get ready for the cricket. Rendel managed to secure a ticket for day 2 so he joined us on the route… even though Gordon and I were expert tube travelers now. With no rain in sight the excitement was building. At the ground we bought a rubber bracelet for the Ruth Strauss foundation. This was the foundation’s flagship day, similar to the McGrath Foundation Sydney Test day. Instead of pink the Ruth Strauss day was red. I was wearing my red jumper to join in the spirit. There were quite a few people wearing red (not Gordon and Rendel).

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Red for Ruth Strauss

We took our seats and soaked in the atmosphere … and a few pints.

The sun was shining – I’m at Lords – watching Ashes cricket – with my great mate Gordon – a few beers in our belly – I cannot think what could be better.

As I said earlier, I will be giving a much more detailed account (and photos) of the cricket later, but here’s a quick summary.

The cricket was fantastic. Australia won the toss and bowled, much to the surprise of most of the “experts”. I thought it was the right decision. An early wicket for Hazlewood and the game was on. Hazlewood bowled beautifully and was rewarded with three wickets. England eventually bowled out for 258 – a great effort by all the Aussie bowlers sharing the wickets. This left a tricky hour’s play for the Australian openers to survive before the stumps. England fans were excited to see their new kid, Jofra Archer in action. Both Broad and Archer bowled well with the new ball. Unfortunately Warner was bowled by Broad much to the jubilation of the English fans – sadly he was boooed off the ground. Bancroft and Khawaja managed to survive the rest of the day for Australia to be 30/1 at stumps. WOW what a day!

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Yes there was beer

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Lords resplendent in the sun

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Lyon to Burns

On the way home we decided to take in some of the touristy sights of London. From St John’s Wood we caught a double-decker London bus to Baker St. We transferred to the tube to go to Westminster. Our expert guide however took us on the wrong train and we found ourselves back at St John’s Wood. An appropriate amount of sh*t was then hung on Rendel – hahaha – all good fun. Eventually we got to Westminster and exited the station right in front of Big Ben. Unfortunately the clock was getting renovated and covered in scaffolding. We walked up the Westminster Bridge to get a good view of the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. Then around the corner to Westminster Abbey. There were other sites around the area, but Rendel was getting tired and we decided to head home to Putney to find some fish and chips for dinner.

We ate in the Prince of Wales pub. The fish and chips were good and rounded out a perfect day! Such a privilege to experience this – many thanks to Gordon for sharing this with me – it was very special.

Back home to Perth tomorrow.

Lords here we come. Part 3 – Test day 1

Tragedy!

I went to Lords – play abandoned without a ball bowled by the weather – end of post – shutup – go away!


Okay okay it wasn’t all that bad.

Rewind one day.

Stalbridge to Putney

We arrived in Putney Tuesday afternoon catching the Train from Templecombe (not Temple of Doom). Rendel accompanied us so the trip was straightforward and very pleasant. Two Gin and Tonics went down nicely as we watched the English countryside roll by.

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Rendel showing us where the train comes from

We arrived in Putney about 4pm and made our way to out hosts Mandy’s cousins , Hugh and Colleen, They have a nice big house with 6 bedrooms and 1000 stairs. Gordon and were up on the top floor. Colleen made scones and we had tea and scones in a lovely English garden – it felt like we were in a movie. Later on tea and scones turned into Gin and Tonics.

Rendel, Gordon and I went out for dinner at the Rocket pub. We had the steak special with included a bottle of wine. Not bad (not great). We ordered beers as well but Gordon and I couldn’t finish them – they were too warm and flat. Rendel ordered a Guinness – I guess he knew better. Gordon and I brought the wine home and knocked it off in the back garden.

Test Day 1

I woke up early about 5am and joined Gordon for a walk over the Putney bridge to Starbucks in Fulham. I had to buy my customary “You are here” mug for London. The weather was cool but clear.

After breakfast we made our way to Lords, catching the train and tube to St John’s Wood. Rendel guided us the way, catching the train from Putney and changing to the tube at Waterloo. Just before we arrived at Waterloo Rendel discovered he’s left his cricket ticket back at the house. Generously he continued to escort us to St Johns Wood before heading home to retrieve his ticket. He got back to the ground before the “start of play”.

We were to meet Mike outside the ground to get our tickets. We got there too early so we went to a nearby cafe for a coffee and cake. It started to rain.

We got to the ground, met Mike, got our tickets and entered the ground. It was still raining.

We visited the Lords shop and bought some souvenirs. Then had a few beers. Still raining.

At about 1pm we decided to go out of the ground for lunch at the Eagle pub. Food was nice with a glass of red. As we were sitting having lunch the rain stopped. Reports from the ground said the covers were coming off and the umpires would do a pitch inspection. We got excited and quickly went back to the ground. By the time we got to the ground – yep the rain started again.

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We sat in the rain and watched the covers for 15 minutes before calling stumps and went home. Disappointing, but I went to Lords and even though there was no cricket I actually did enjoy the day.

Meeting Mr Hansen

I caught up with an old mate, Chris for dinner. Chris and I worked together about 18 years ago. He moved to London with is Girlfriend in 2002 and have been living in England ever since. I catch up with him when he visits Perth. He caught the train in from Cholsey and asked where I was staying. I gave him the address and we were stunned to discover that he lived in the house across the street when he first came to London in 2002. What are the odds? But wait… when he arrived and met everyone we were even more stunned to find out Chris had actually played in the same village cricket team, Henstridge, as Rendel in Somerset. What are those odds?

Gordon and Rendel joined us for a curry dinner at Ma Goa. The curry was great and the reminiscing was fun. Chris joined us back at the house for a few wines after. It was great to see Chris again. Hopefully we can visit his home town one day.

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Tomorrow Day 2 at the cricket. Hopefully the weather forecast is right.

Lords here we come. Part 2 – Dorset sights

As mentioned before I’m staying with Gordon’s Brother, Rendel and his wife, Mandy in Stalbridge in the English county of Dorset. Stalbridge is a small town just inside Dorset’s border with Somerset.

I woke early Monday morning about 5 am and joined Gordon on his morning constitutional walk. The sun was just up and the town was still sleeping apart from a few people walking their dogs (and one silly jogger). We walked at a brisk pace (as usual I was trying to keep up with Gordon) taking some photos of the local architecture. We walked down a dead end road with a couple of very nice houses at the end. Gordon took a couple of snaps and as were coming back out of the road a gentleman was standing in the road with hands on hips. I expected him to say “well well, whats all this then?“. But he asked who are we and why were we talking photos. Gordon explained we’re just tourists taking photos of the architecture of the area – “don’t worry nothing sinister mate“. He seemed to accept this and (to my disappointment) didn’t call the local bobbies. I guess we’re the first tourists Stalbridge ever had. We pushed on trying to find a coffee shop. The local supermarket, Dike and Sons had a coffee shop but it was yet to open. I guess our body clocks are not aligned with Stalbridge time yet.

Back to the house Rendel had prepared breakfast of cereal, fruit and toast. Some of the fruit was grown in Rendel’s garden. We then took a walk back to Dike and Sons to pick up the paper and have that coffee. Coffee was average – maybe we should be English and just drink tea.

Rendel and Mandy promised to show us the sights of Dorset. We took off on our road trip down to the seaside.

Sherborne

First stop was Sherborne where they have a impressive Abbey. The Abbey is a Church of England church and reminded me of the cathedrals of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. We walked around inside the church and then outside around the grounds to the school. The school has been used in a couple of movies including “Goodbye Mr Chips (1969)”.

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Sherborne Abbey

Cerne Abbas Giant

The second stop was the Cerne Abbas Giant, This is a 50 metre image of a naked man holding a large club outlined on the side of a hill. The outline was a bit overgrown but you could still make out his giant erection – which I suspect is the main attraction. Quite cool nonetheless.

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Cerne Giant

Next we headed to the coast. The roads we very narrow sometimes with enough room for only one car. When meeting another vehicle head on, one has to back up to find a embayment to allow the other to pass. The locals drive a a furious pace even on these roads. I surprised we didn’t see any head-on accidents.

The roads did however provided some beautiful scenery of rolling farmland coming up the coast.

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Looking south to the English Channel

Burton Bradstock (Hive Beach)

We reached the English Channel at Burton Bradstock also known as Hive Beach. Rendel has a favourite restaurant right on the beach, Hive Beach Cafe. Nick and his wife, Angie joined us for a seafood lunch. The place is very popular and we were lucky to get a table inside, as the rain was coming in fast. Gordon and I sampled the local lager from the Piddle brewery which was just average. The lunch was very nice, company was good and the view was great.

Gordon, Mandy and I took a walk along the beach cliffs after lunch to check out the views.

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Hive Beach

After lunch we drove east along the coast stopping to take in the view at Chesil Beach.

Hardy Monument

Then inland heading home we stopped at the Hardy Monument. This is a large “Spyglass” shaped monument built in 1844 in memory of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Flag Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

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Hardy’s Tower is even taller than Gordon

We zoomed home through the narrow country roads stopping in Sherborne to pick up some steaks for dinner.

Somerset

Nick and Angie invited us to their place for a pre-dinner drink where we met Mandy’s other brother Hugo and his partner Lizzie. Rendel was a little tired after the trip and didn’t join us. Their house is just ten minutes away, but over the border in Somerset. We had a few champagnes and laughs before heading home where Rendel had the barbecue going. The steaks were great and after dinner we finished the day with a couple of scotches.